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League Two is everything Cooper expected
WHEN appointed Hartlepool United boss at the end of May, Colin Cooper came into the job armed with a couple of nuggets of advice.
League Two, while Cooper had a slice of past experience from his time at Bradford, was a bit of an unknown quantity.
As he prepares for his eighth game in charge at Bristol Rovers this afternoon, it's fair to say those slices of information have proved spot on.
"One piece of advice I had in the summer from people, friends who have been in football a long time was that they all accepted the way I want to do things, but they did say you have to be able to look after yourself and defend both 18-yard boxes,'' he admitted.
"And what goes on in between can sometimes be inconsequential. I'd like to think that what we are doing in between is impressive, with some decent football from a team trying to pass it.
"But ultimately, it's about trying to defend both boxes. That's what happens in this league - look at last weekend, despite the nice things that happened previously, we had to do that.
"We have to be able to create in the opposition box and it has to be a continuous improvement really.
Last week Pools recorded their first Football League victory of the season, seeing off Accrington 2-1. That had previously beat Bradford 5-0 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, but those three points were very welcome.
"League Two is a tough, tough league,'' added Cooper. "Our lads are learning, younger lads in particular. Lads who played last year know what it's about, but I don't feel it's that different.
"You need the ability to create and have a physicality and a presence in both boxes. Can you deal with first and second balls - third ball if necessary.
"But I have to say I am loving every minute of it. Results make everyone feel better but I genuinely feel we are developing a group of players more than capable of progressing in this league.''
Progression could come this afternoon against opposition that have lost their last two games.
Pools have drew their last two away games by the same 0-0 scoreline and, while neither game at York or Torquay was inspiring, the clean sheets have offered something for Cooper and Co to build on.
"I like to see improvements on what we do and how we do it,'' he admitted.
"When we are under the cosh a bit, do we have the ability to hold onto the ball and use it better, instead of being anxious and trying to get rid?
"We have pace in the team, we want to use it. Last weekend was difficult at the end, Neil Austin was struggling at left back, so we couldn't get the wingers out.
"Before that during the game we were smashing and we continue being positive.''
Last weekend's win, while as welcome as it was, didn't get Cooper over excited.
Seeing the bigger picture in terms of the improvements he wants to engineer in his players and squad, the manager now expects his players to push on from that inaugural win.
"It wasn't relief for me - I've been very relaxed about the whole situation,'' he reflected.
"We've played well enough to get results and points, and teams coming to the Vic have been turned over, but gone off with three points.
"I wanted our fans to see the work we are pu8tting in and get rewarded for it - they can see we believe, work hard and will gain confidence from what we are doing.
"The spirit has been fantastic, training has been brilliant all that was missing was the final bit.
"Bristol Rovers are a little ahead of us and we want to give a good performance on the back of a positive result.
"We have had two-thirds of a positive performance last week with a positive result. We go to Bristol to be organised, compact and solid to make sure we don't lose it, give a chance to get into the game.
"Be hard to beat and get an opportunity to create. We have players who can do that.''